Safeway sells final store in divestment order

Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Safeway has disposed of the last of the supermarkets it was forced to sell when it took over the Carrs Gottstein Foods chain last fall in a $330 million deal.

The Anchorage store will become a health food outlet.

Safeway plans to close the University Center site at 6 p.m. Saturday and begin transferring merchandise to its other Anchorage stores, Richard Near said Thursday.

Near is Alaska manager for the California-based grocer. The store's 40 employees are being offered jobs at other locations, he said.

Natural Pantry owners Rick and Vikki Solberg hope to reopen under the Natural Pantry name by about June 20 and employ up to 35 people.

Six of the Safeway stores were sold earlier to form the Alaska Marketplace chain. But Seattle-based Alaska Marketplace didn't want the University Center store, nor did a number of other companies approached by Safeway.

A judge last April approved Safeway's purchase of Carrs under one condition: that Safeway sell seven of its Alaska stores because of an apparent monopoly it had on the grocery store market. It faced up to $7 million in fines if it didn't divest.

The state fined the company more than $500,000 because Safeway sold only six stores last fall, and ordered it to keep trying.

Neither Safeway nor the Solbergs would disclose the purchase price. But Safeway was facing a second stiff fine this year if the store wasn't sold, which added some pressure to the negotiations.

Some store owners said they hope Natural Pantry brings a new crowd of shoppers into the struggling mall, where several storefronts have gone dark over the past two years.

The biggest vacancy was left by PayLess in 1998. Foot Locker shut its doors last week.

``Ever since PayLess closed, my business has been off 30 to 40 percent,'' said Bill Morriseau, who has operated an ice cream parlor in the University Center mall since 1992.

Despite the mall's rough times, the Solbergs said they're up to the challenge of running a second Anchorage store. Natural Pantry has agreed to run the store for three years, the state said Thursday.

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